Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)
Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O LORD, you preserve both man and beast. How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Psalms 36:5-9 (NIV)
I remember clearly both of my daughter’s births. They were each very different experiences. One was in Alaska where we had no family and very few friends; the other was in our hometown of Redding, CA with family and friends in abundance. One was an emergency C-section after 12 hours of induced labor; the other was a scheduled C-section which took less than 3 hours without complications. One happened early in my marriage; the other eight years later. However, with all of the differences there were some important similarities.
In order to avoid any threatening email from readers of the female persuasion, especially those who have experienced childbirth, I will testify wholeheartedly that my wife did all of the work. She is an amazing woman and I am eternally grateful for her personal sacrifices that brought two beautiful little girls into our world. That being said, I will only discuss here the similarities that directly affected me and changed my life forever.
The first similarity was joy. Not “I just got the high score on Bejewelled” joy, but “My life has changed forever in the best way possible” joy. The very moment I saw each of my daughters this overwhelming joy filled my heart and began a transformation that is still progressing. It is a deep joy that comes from places we aren’t used to visiting every day. Yet each time my daughters smile and say they love me, every time I see them sleeping soundly in bed, whenever their unique personalities shine through their words or actions, that joy is rekindled and burns brightly. It is a reminder of the incredible gift it is to be called father. Each of those moments have been and continue to be navigation points on the roadmap of priorities and choices.
The next similarity was the protective instinct. I know what it is to defend the ones you love, to bristle at an unkind word directed at my wife or to prepare for battle with family and friends in mind. The desire to protect your child is different. It again comes from depths we do not plumb apart from extreme circumstances. For me, it induced a courage I had not experienced before; a confidence that I would truly do anything to keep them from harm. Let me clarify that it was not a desire to keep them from all risk; this is how we grow in life – the first step, the first fall, the first skinned knee. It was a desire to protect what God created, to allow them to fully realize who He has made them to be, to protect them from the ways of the world that stifle the spirit and mutilate the mind.
Finally, the strongest similarity was love and it was the root from which the others sprouted. It didn’t fill my heart, it flooded my heart. My only fear was that my heart was not big enough to hold it. I have come to realize that I was right, but God is gracious and helps too-small-hearts to grow. This is the miracle of fatherhood: that I am able to experience even in the slightest degree the love that God has for His children. The idea that we can bring him joy, incite His compassion to protect us and be the objects of His perfect and infinite love should stop us in our tracks and humble us. To think that He was present at my new birth to welcome me into this new world of God’s grace still amazes me.
Each day I hope that my heart grows bigger so that I can love my daughters and my wife better than I did the day before. I don’t just want a father’s heart; I want the Father’s heart. I want a heart that is bigger than the challenges that face my family. I want a heart that feels deeply, loves richly and burns with righteous anger at injustice and sin, even if it is my own. I want the Father’s heart because it is the only heart big enough, strong enough and wise enough to love others as I should. I want the Father’s heart because I have felt His compassion, grace and mercy, steeped in love and flowing with joy and want to share it with my children. Lord, give me a heart like yours, I pray.